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Community members offer suggestions on plans for the future of UMass

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Maria Uminski/Collegian

The University of Massachusetts is in the process of creating a long-term plan that will attempt to ensure a positive future for the campus.

That was the sentiment that Dennis Swinford, the director of campus planning at UMass, expressed at an open forum on a campus master plan last Wednesday.

“We are creating a long-term campus master plan for this process,” Swinford, who was appointed to his post last September, said at the onset of the roughly three-hour-long forum. “We don’t want to do today something that will limit our process in the future.”

As part of the process of creating a master plan – which is a detailed sketch of what the physical campus will look like in the years to come – Swinford is working with a team of officials, including individuals from architectural and engineering firms, to determine what should be included in the scheme.

While nothing is seemingly set in stone yet for the plan, Swinford gave attendees of the forum – which was the third such meeting on developing a master plan – a presentation on areas and places on campus that are currently being looked at to improve or update over the next several years.

“Right now, we’re looking at the whole campus,” said Swinford, who detailed some of the areas being considered in a slideshow. 

Swinford’s presentation included a listing of buildings on campus that the planners are suggesting should be replaced or renovated in the next several years. It also broke down how much space in square feet is currently being occupied by structures on campus and included a map detailing how streets and other items around the main campus can be further developed.

Additionally, Swinford provided outlines of past master and development plans of the campus, and noted that one goal of the current plan is to preserve and improve open spaces on the property.

“One of the biggest systems that makes a campus a campus is the open space system,” he said.

“It’s this notion of creating campus; not just building buildings, but building a campus,” Swinford added.

A number of students, faculty and community members raised concerns and offered suggestions on the master plan during the meeting.

Randy Phillis, an associate professor of biology and the president of the UMass branch of the Massachusetts Society of Professors, the faculty union, was one of the most vocal participants in the discussion. Among his concerns was that the process of constructing or renovating structures could have a negative effect on people’s work.

“This is an extraordinary burden in real time for people that are going through the transitional phase,” Phillis said at one point during the forum. He added that he advocates for a “careful planning” process.

Some of the other concerns raised by forum participants were about possible plans to improve parking, the future of North Pleasant Street and ongoing construction research near Tobin Hall, which some felt was hindering research exercises from taking place inside the building. Concerns were also raised about the upcoming construction of the Commonwealth Honors College complex. That project has already been given the go-ahead and is not necessarily a large part of the current master plan process.

One student, who left the meeting before he could be identified by the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, also suggested that the master plan include a way to better connect the University with the greater Amherst community. He added that there should be a way for people to be able to quickly “sweep into UMass,” and see the library, the campus pond and a show at the Fine Arts Center.

At the conclusion of the forum, Swinford noted that the planning process is still ongoing, and suggested that many members of the community continue to participate in it.

“I think it’s important that we begin to create … planning on campus,” he said.  “By your participation, you’re supporting us.”

Another open forum on the master plan will take place on Wednesday, April 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Campus Center Reading Room. Swinford is hoping to have a draft of the master plan by the beginning of the fall 2011 semester.

William Perkins can be reached at wperkins@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Community members offer suggestions on plans for the future of UMass”
  1. Mike L. says:

    Umass should invest in academics first and buildings second. Protect and elevate the Umass name through reputation of academic excellence and challenge and not that it has a good looking campus. How will a good looking campus serve you once you have graduated? Alas with the corporate model most big universities are adapting today they choose to attract students with “quality of life” aspects before academics. These aesthetic improvements will be rolled into the costs of attending. All this new construction just causes students to get less education for their dollar, and good looking sidewalks and trees.

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